GDC Online 2012 reveals first details of Game Dev Start-Up Summit

gdco.gifStarting your own game studio is a great way to pursue your independence and enjoy complete creative freedom, but as it turns out, building a new business requires a lot of hard work. There are plenty of factors to manage and keep in mind.

With that in mind, the inaugural Game Dev Start-Up Summit at this year’s GDC Online in Austin promises to offer plenty of help for developers looking to strike out on their own.

This one-day Summit, put together by GDC Online organizers and veteran game industry lawyer Jim Charne, will include a host of sessions that provide a step-by-step look at the issues, challenges, and realities of getting a new game company off the ground.

The Summit will take place alongside the rest of GDC Online, which will be held Tuesday, October 9 to Thursday, October 11 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas, and will be open to all Summits & Tutorials and All-Access Pass holders.

And now, GDC Online organizers have revealed the first three talk themes in the upcoming Game Dev Start-Up Summit. The full details on these newly announced sessions are as follows:

– To kick things off, the Summit speakers will host “Pre-launch – Preparing to Take the Plunge,” a robust discussion of the concrete steps developers need to take to move from their previous employment to their brand-new startup.

– Next, multiple speakers will discuss how to put all the pieces of your company together in “Formation: Legal and Accounting Issues.” The speakers will give attendees the insight they need to find and lease an office, to select a good bookkeeper and lawyer, to establish a useful employee handbook, and much more.

– In the Summit’s third session, the speakers will host “Finance: Sources and Timing,” covering perhaps the most important resource to a fledgling business: Money. The session will cover everything from bootstrapping, venture capital, bank loans, and many other resources that a new company will have to keep in mind.

Confirmed speakers for the Game Dev Start-Up Summit thus far include notable game developers, businesspeople and legal counsel including Don Daglow (Daglow Entertainment), James Niesewand (Illyriad Games), Rob Shillingsburg (Jetbolt Games), Dan Offner (Loeb & Loeb), David Rosenbaum (Law Offices of David S Rosenbaum), David Baszucki (Roblox), Bill Graner (Crater House), and Gary Gattis (Spacetime Studios).

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GDC Online Awards nominees led by Star Wars: The Old Republic, Draw Something

gdconlineawards1.jpgOrganizers of GDC Online have announced the finalists for the third annual Game Developers Choice Online Awards, which honors the best in connected online gaming, from social network titles to major MMOs and beyond.

The most-nominated titles this year include BioWare Austin’s MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic, which grabbed six nominations, as well as multiple nominations for diverse titles including Omgpop/Zynga’s addictive social mobile app Draw Something, Playfish/EA’s Facebook treatment of one of gaming’s biggest franchises, The Sims Social, Blizzard Entertainment’s record-breaking PC online-integrated title Diablo III, Tiny Speck’s quirky casual MMO Glitch, and more.

The range of nominees this year highlights the constantly evolving online game ecosystem, which is particularly reflected in the Awards’ top prize categories, Best Live Game and Best New Online Game.

In the Best Live Game category, Rift (Trion World) and League of Legends (Riot Games), the latter of which was nominated in the same category at last year’s Awards, compete against titles including fan favorite CityVille (Zynga) and cornerstone title World of Warcraft (Blizzard Entertainment). Best New Online Game nominees include the aforementioned Star Wars: The Old Republic, which runs against Omgpop’s Draw Something and F2P mobile standout Rage of Bahamut (Cygames/Mobage), among others.

The Game Developers Choice Online Awards are a sister event to the Game Developers Choice Awards which takes place annually at GDC in San Francisco. The ceremony will be held on the evening of Wednesday, October 10, 2012 during the GDC Online, which takes place at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas October 9-11.

The Choice Online Awards-specific International Choice Awards Network (ICAN Online) is responsible for selecting both the finalists and the winners for each regular awards category. ICAN Online is comprised of an invitation-only group of 400 leading game creators from all parts of the online game industry.

Returning to the Game Developers Choice Online Awards for 2012 is industry veteran and popular host Mike Goslin of Rebel Entertainment, who will once again act as master of ceremonies during the “for developers, by developers” awards ceremony.

The complete list of finalists for the 2012 Game Developers Choice Online Awards, presented in association with 2012 Platinum Sponsor EdgeCast, are as follows:

Best Social Network Game:

– CastleVille (Zynga Dallas)
– Rage Of Bahamut (Cygames/Mobage)
– Draw Something (OMGPOP/Zynga)
– Empires & Allies (Zynga LA)
– The Sims Social (Playfish)

Best Audio:

– Star Wars: The Old Republic (BioWare Austin)
– Tribes: Ascend (Hi-Rez Studios)
– Marvel: Avengers Alliance (Playdom/Disney)
– Diablo III (Blizzard Entertainment)
– Indiana Jones Adventure World (Zynga Boston)

Best Online Game Design:

– Glitch (Tiny Speck)
– Realm of the Mad God (Wild Shadow Studios/Kabam w/Spry Fox)
– Star Wars: The Old Republic (BioWare Austin)
– DragonVale (Backflip Studios)
– Woodland Heroes (Row Sham Bow)

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GDC Online debuts Smedley, Old Republic, MMO community talks

planetside.jpgWith GDC Online inching ever closer, the show has added a trio of new talks featuring Sony Online Entertainment’s John Smedley on transitioning to the free to play model, BioWare on the platform supporting Star Wars: The Old Republic, and CCP on nurturing an MMO community.

These new talks all fall within GDC Online’s Main Conference, which offers come of the world’s leading content on persistent and online games. The event will be held Tuesday, October 9 to Thursday, October 11 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas.

The full details on these newly-announced sessions are as follows:

– First, John Smedley, the president of Sony Online Entertainment, will discuss how the company transitioned its entire game lineup to the free to play model in the Business and Marketing track lecture, “Free-to-Play: Driving the Future of MMOs.”

Referencing games from EverQuest to Planetside 2 (pictured), Smedley will share some of SOE’s insights and lessons learned to help other developers successfully adopt the free to play model. With this knowledge, attendees will walk away understanding how to grow not only their player base, but also their overall revenue.

– Over in the Production track, Dave Moore, BioWare’s senior director of platform services, will explain how he and the studio established a robust and scalable platform for the major MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic.

During the session, “Building the Scalable Platform for SWTOR,” Moore will discuss how the studio prepared for the game’s launch, sharing the technical details and implementation decisions that helped ensure everything worked once the game went live.

– Finally, CCP senior researcher Petur Oskarsson will host the Customer Experience track session, “Ear to the Ground – MMO Community Feedback & Metrics for Decision Making,” during which he’ll share his insight on how to best nurture an online game community.

Using examples from CCP’s own EVE Online, Oskarsson will outline the dos and don’ts of metrics-driven community management to help developers identify common pitfalls, learn how to best incorporate player feedback, and make their games better and their communities more active.

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GDC Online 2012 adds programming talks on CityVille, HTML5, more

cityville.jpgIn the latest update for GDC Online 2012, show organizers have revealed three new programming-focused talks, covering Zynga’s CityVille, the realities of HTML5, and tips for improving rendering pipelines.

These talks all fall within the Programming track in GDC Online’s Main Conference, which offers attendees the world’s leading content on persistent and online games. The event will be held Tuesday, October 9 to Thursday, October 11 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas.

The full details on these newly announced sessions are as follows:

– When it comes to the Facebook space, there aren’t many games as popular as Zynga’s CityVille, and at GDC Online, engineer Kartik Ayyar will offer an inside look at the tools, infrastructure, and strategies Zynga employs to keep the large-scale title up and running.

Ayyar’s talk, “CityVille: Lessons Learned & Tools Used to Run a Large Social Game,” will showcase what it takes to maintain one of the web’s most popular titles, and attendees will walk away understanding how to operate large-scale web games, and ensure that content updates remain both frequent and efficient.

– Elsewhere, Jiri Kupiainen, the VP of Disney Interactive’s HTML5 specialist studio Rocket Pack, will pick apart the realities of working on the web with the technology in his talk, “HTML5 Reality Check.”

Over the past several months, developers all over the industry have sung the praises of HTML5, claiming it could revolutionize the way developers approach multiplatform games. Here, Kupiainen will reassess those claims, noting the common pitfalls of the emerging web standard, its recent developments and trends, and what developers can expect if they use HTML5 themselves.

– Finally, Intel graphics software engineer Omar Rodriguez will set out to improve developers’ rendering pipelines in “Dynamic Resolution Rendering for OpenGL ES 2.0 and WebGL.”

As Rodriguez notes, “pixel shading work is one of the most expensive stages in games’ rendering pipelines due to lighting, post processing, and other image space effects,” and in his talk he’ll share a technique to help programmers “reduce pixel shader load by dynamically modifying the rendering resolution.” His technique is widely applicable, but Rodriguez says it’s particularly suited to web and mobile development.

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GDC Online adds psychology, SOE community talks

gdco.gifGDC Online continues to take shape this week, as show organizers have debuted a new batch of talks including a look at the psychology of numbers, and how one SOE director took community management tips from goat herders, of all things.

These talks all fall within GDC Online’s Main Conference, which offers come of the world’s leading content on persistent and online games. The event will be held Tuesday, October 9 to Thursday, October 11 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas.

The full details on these newly-announced sessions are as follows:

– Over in the Design track, Intrinsic Algorithm president Dave Mark will host, “Psychology vs Structure: The Power of Numbers in Game Design,” offering an analysis of how numbers dictate nearly all realms of game creation.

Numbers influence everything from scores, abilities, damage ranges, and even prices, and Mark will argue that they play a key role in crafting what a player perceives, believes, and even feels. Using a number of unusual (and often amusing) examples, he will demonstrate the messages these numbers send and how game developers can use the psychology of numbers to make better games.

– Elsewhere, Sony Online Entertainment’s director of community relations, Linda Carlson, will share her insight on how to build and nurture a strong community using examples from a very unexpected field: Goat herding.

Carlson actually has hands-on experience working with goat herders, and in her Customer Experience track session, “Everything I Needed To Know About Community Management, I Learned From Goat Herders,” she will explain how the skills she picked up apply directly to online games like EverQuest and Star Wars Galaxies. It’s an odd comparison, to be sure, but it promises to really shed some light on how to manage a community, regardless of whether you’re working with animals or making video games.

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GDC Online 2012 adds Zynga, Aion free to play, happiness talks

draw.jpgIn the latest update for GDC Online 2012, show organizers have revealed a trio of new talks covering Zynga’s Draw Something backend infrastructure, lessons on making Aion free to play, and tips for making your team happier and your games more fun.

These talks all fall within GDC Online’s Main Conference, which offers come of the world’s leading content on persistent and online games. The event will be held Tuesday, October 9 to Thursday, October 11 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas.

The full details on these newly-announced sessions are as follows:

– First, Zynga Chief Technology officers Allan Leinwand and Jason Pearlman will share their stories and advice on how game developers can handle the growth of games that become overnight sensations.

During their Programming track talk, “Bootstrapping the Infrastructure of Draw Something and Other Hit Games,” the pair will reflect on Zynga’s Omgpop-developed sensation along with a number of other titles to give attendees a blueprint for developing a scalable backend infrastructure that keeps things running smoothly even during times of crisis and exponential growth.

– Over in the Business & Marketing track, Gameforge 4D CEO Carsten van Husenwill discuss how to turn a subscription MMO into a free to play game in “7 Learnings from Making Aion Europe Free-to-Play.”

Looking back on how the European version of the fantasy MMO Aion made the free to play transition, van Husenwill will offer some essential insight to other online game developers regarding how to create an effective monetization system, how to prepare for a number of inevitable technical hiccups, and how to re-establish an existing brand under a new business model.

– Finally, highly rated GDC speaker Scott Crabtree of Happy Brain Science will explain how developers can use neuroscience and psychology to effectively build happy teams that work well together and create more quality work.

His Production track talk, “Fun Makes Fun: The Brain Science of Happy Game Teams,” will teach attendees about the science of great teamwork, helping them establish a stronger bond between co-workers, limit everyday stress, and ultimately make better games.

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GDC Online 2012 debuts first sessions for Game Narrative Summit

MCFiles.jpgWith GDC Online 2012 quickly taking shape, show organizers have revealed the initial lineup for the event’s Game Narrative Summit, which features a talk on writing for casual players, a look at crafting in-game romances, and a discussion on mystery and occult game design.

Now in its seventh year, the Game Narrative Summit — formerly the Game Writers Conference — will once again showcase leading industry professionals on the many facets of interactive storytelling, with sessions ranging from roundtable discussions, workshops, case studies, and more.

GDC Online itself will take place Tuesday, October 9 to Thursday, October 11 at the Austin Convention Center at Austin, Texas.

The initial sessions and lectures featured in the two-day Game Narrative Summit include the following:

– If you’re writing for a traditional console game, chances are your stories are aimed squarely at a young male audience, but as Big Fish Games’ Lisa Brunette will explain, storytelling techniques have to change quite wildly if you move over into the social or casual realm.

In her talk, “Immersive Storytelling for a Misunderstood Audience,” Brunette will discuss how Big Fish writes games for the over-35 female audience with games like Cooking Dash and Mystery Case Files (pictured). Along the way, she’ll detail how social audiences differ from the traditional console crowd, noting what developers need to do to write stories for each demographic.

– Elsewhere, Schell Games designer Heidi McDonald will outline a new model for writing successful romances in single player RPGs, which draws influence from games, writing, psychology, and more.

The session, dubbed “Writing the Romance-able NPC: ICING the Content Cake,” will showcase how this “ICING” model leverages scholarly works to make virtual romances more believable, interesting, and complex.

– Finally, video game academic and story analyst Jeff Howard will present “Occult Game Design: An Initiation into Secrets and Mysteries,” which will examine titles such as The Binding of Isaac and The Legend of Grimrock, and explain how mystery plays a key role in hooking a player’s attention.

According to Howard, “mystery enables puzzles that are pervasive and organic rather than localized and artificial,” and during his talk he will provide some advice on crafting in-game mysteries that “heighten player engagement, enrich player communities, and keep satisfied players wanting more.”

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GDC Online 2012 adds new Segerstrale, online PR, A/B testing talks

EA.jpgWith online registration now open for GDC Online 2012, show organizers have begun unveiling new talks for the October event, this time revealing three new lectures covering EA’s approach to multiplatform franchises, tips for taking PR into your own hands, and advice for conducting A/B tests within social games.

These talks all fall within GDC Online’s main conference, which takes place Tuesday, October 9 to Thursday, October 11 at the Austin Convention Center at Austin, Texas.

The full details on these newly-announced sessions are as follows:

– As part of the Business & Marketing track, Playfish co-founder and EA EVP of digital Kristian Segerstrale (Pet Society, SimCity Social) will host “Bet on IP and Platform,” which covers how to create successful brands that can succeed on nearly any platform.

Looking at EA’s own strategy in particular, key social game pioneer Segerstrale (pictured) will discuss how to ensure a franchise such as The Sims can succeed across multiple devices, while sharing insight on how to turn “the industry’s biggest titles into 365-day a year services.”

– Over in the Production track, Valerie Massey, the director of community development at the community analytics company Clara, will outline some essential tools for taking care of your own low-cost media outreach for online games.

During this session, titled “Public Relations 101: Make Your Own Media Magic,” the former CCP employee will ensure attendees walk away knowing how to “[put] together a basic media kit and contact list, how to kick off their PR efforts,” and how to avoid common mistakes with the press.

– Finally, Jesse Hull of the social game company GSN Games (top 100 Facebook app Games By GSN) will host the Business & Marketing track lecture, “A Holistic Approach to A/B Testing,” detailing how developers can make their online social games more efficient and more appealing to their players.

Building upon his critically acclaimed GDC 2012 session, Hull will explain how to most effectively implement A/B testing, helping developers avoid common pitfalls, establish effective procedures, and hopefully make better online games.

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GDC Online 2012 opens registration, debuts Old Republic, League of Legends talks

TOR.jpgGDC Online 2012 organizers have announced that online registration for this October’s show has officially opened, and the event has also debuted the first batch of talks in its growing lineup.

Keeping in line with the show’s ‘persistent gaming’ theme, these initial sessions cover major online games such as Star Wars: The Old Republic and League of Legends, as well as the extremely important social games market.

This trio of talks marks the first of many regular updates leading up to this year’s GDC Online. The etails on these presentations are as follows:

– As part of the Game Design track, BioWare Austin’s Damion Schubert will provide an in-depth look at the studio’s approach to online storytelling in a lecture titled “Behind the Curtain: Using MMO Game Systems to Tell BioWare Stories.”

Throughout this presentation, Schubert will peel back the layers of major MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic, detailing how BioWare adapted its approach to in-game storytelling to a large scale online game. Along the way, he will outline how The Old Republic‘s mechanics both helped and hindered the game’s narrative.

– Over in the Production track, Riot Games senior producer Travis George will host “Stacking Talent: Growing the League of Legends Team,” discussing how to avoid the pitfalls of rapid studio growth.

George spends much of his time ensuring the League of Legends team remains cohesive and focused, and in this talk he will share what he’s learned to help other developers uphold established processes, communication channels, and most of all, a sense of studio culture.

– Finally, social game developers Steve Meretzky (VP of game design, Playdom) and Dave Rohrl (VP of game production, FunSockets), will host the GDC Online conference staple, “Social Games: The Year in Review.”

As they’ve done in previous years, the pair will look back at the last year in the social game market, offering their unique insight and analysis on recent trends, successes, lessons learned, and more.

Whether you’re new to social games or a seasoned expert, this session will provide an essential overview of the space to help ensure that you’re aware of what’s happening now, and what might be on the horizon.

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Reminder: GDC Online 2012’s call for submissions ends Wednesday, May 2

gdco.jpgFollowing a successful event in 2011, this October’s GDC Online is beginning to take shape. Developers looking to submit a proposal for the Austin-based show should act soon, as the call for lecture and panel submissions ends this Wednesday, May 2.

This year, the conference is accepting submissions for main conference tracks in Business & Marketing, Customer Experience, Design, Production, and Programming. Keeping in line with the conference’s online theme, these tracks all emphasize the development of connected games such as social network titles, free-to-play web games, kid-friendly online titles, and large-scale MMOs.

In addition, GDC Online is also seeking proposals for its four Summits, which each focus on a prominent or emerging sector of game development. The 2012 show will see the return of the ever-popular Game Narrative Summit and the Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit, alongside the brand new Game Dev Start-Up Summit and the Gamification Day.

The new Game Dev Start-Up Summit presents a comprehensive step-by-step look at the issues, challenges, and realities getting a new game studio off the ground. This one-day program will identify key challenges and arm attendees with knowledge that can help new ventures succeed.

The Gamification Day, meanwhile, will discuss the debatable and sometimes problematic process of building game-like incentives into non-game applications to address issues like productivity, health, marketing, and customer engagement. The full-day event will bring fresh discussions about blending games and technology, and will highlight inspired and successful case studies from today’s forward-thinking businesses.

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